Sunday, 28 September 2014

Agnes ap Rhys, the rebel's daughter

Agnes Rice (ap Rhys) (1522-74) was the daughter of Catherine Howard (1508-54) and Rhys ap Gruffydd (1508-31), a Welsh landowner who was executed for treason as it was believed he was plotting with the Scottish king against King Henry VIII. Due to her father's death, and the confiscation of his estates by the crown, Agnes was sent to live in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. As Agnes' mother, Catherine, had been the daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk.

In the 1540's Agnes became the mistress of William Stourton, Baron Stourton.

William Stourton, Baron Stourton (1505-48) and his wife Elizabeth Dudley (1488-1560), had nine children together;
+ Charles Stourton (1521-57) m. Anne Stanley
+ Ursula Stourton (1518-51) m. Edward Clinton
+ Arthur Stourton (1524-58) m. Anne McWilliams
+ William Stourton (1526-81) m1. Thomasine FitzJames m2. Mary Wogan
+ Andrew Stourton
+ Dorothy Stourton m. Richard Brent
+ John Stourton (1531-81)
+ George Stourton (b.1527)
+ Giles Stourton (b.1529) m. Joan Gifford

William Stourton left his wife and children, and moved Agnes in with him where she lived as his wife. Agnes later claimed in 1553 that they had indeed been married in 1547 in the chapel at Stourton House, however William's wife Elizabeth was still living at this time.

Agnes and William had a daughter together; Mary Stourton (1547-1620), who married Richard Gore (1543-83) on the 13th July 1565. At the time of her marriage Mary was given the manor of Aldrington and half of the manor of Yetton Keynel. They sold their share of Yetton Keynel Manor in 1577.
Mary and Richard had six children together;
+ Edward (1565-1622) m. Elizabeth Jennings (d.1627)
+ Mary (b.1570)
+ Susannah (b.1582) m. Robert Edwards
+ Agnes
+ Elizabeth
+ Walter

Upon William's death in 1548, his Will left nearly everything he owned to Agnes, and with the exception of his heir, his eldest son Charles, his wife and children were left nothing. Agnes took all jewels and money and moved back to Stourton House, refusing to be evicted by Charles; she had the servants take up arms in defense of the estate and locked all gates. Charles was not able to evict her from the property until 1550, and even then he was not able to regain the jewels and money she had taken. Charles attempted to act against the wishes of his father's Will, and Agnes sued him through the courts. The settlement of the estate of William Stourton was not settled until 1557, after the death of Charles.

After William Stourton's death, Agnes married, or remarried if her claims of being married to Stourton are to be believed, to Edward Bayntun (1517-93). The couple had thirteen children together, including;
+ William (d.1564)
+ Henry (1571-1616)
+ Anne (d.1587)
+ Margaret
+ Elizabeth
+ Catherine (d.1582)

The couple lived at The Ivy, a large house at the Manor of Rowden in Chippenham which Edward had inherited from his father. Agnes and Edward continued to live there until 1564 when Edward's elder brother died and he inherited the entirety of the Manor of Rowden, and so moved their family into Bromham House. Edward was highly involved with local government, being MP for several areas - Wiltshire County, Devizes, Caine and Chippenham Borough - as well as High Sheriff of Wiltshire (1570) and Justice of the Peace. Edward was knighted in 1574.

The Ivy

In 1564 the eldest son of Agnes and Edward, William, died as an infant. The sudden nature of his death led to the accusation that witchcraft had been behind his demise. Dorothy Mantell, the wife of Edward's younger brother Henry Bayntun was accused of employing Agnes Mills to bewitch the child, hoping to kill him. Dorothy's motives were that if William died, then her husband Henry would become Edward's heir and inherit the family estate. A witness to the crime was one Jane Marshe, who gave evidence against Dorothy. However she then changed her testimony and said that Edward and Agnes had bribed her into incriminating Dorothy. Agnes Mills was hanged for witchcraft, but Dorothy went unpunished for her part.

Agnes Bayntun died on the 19th August 1574, and was buried in St Nicholas Church in Bromham, where she was later joined by her husband Edward. At the time of her death, only five of her children by Edward were still alive, as well as her elder daughter Mary Stourton. Edward married for a second time to Anne Packington, with whom he had one son, before himself dying in 1593.

Brass on Bayntun tomb, St Nicholas; Edward, son Henry, Agnes, daughter Anne, missing brass of daughter Elizabeth, and second wife Anne.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Anne of Cleves' royal baby

King Henry VIII's fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves was a short lived disaster, yet after the marriage was annulled the king and his now 'sister', as Anne was to be known, the two shared a warm friendship. Anne was often at the royal court and maintained strong relationships with the king's daughters Mary and Elizabeth.

Anne of Cleves

In late 1541 rumours reached the royal court that Anne of Cleves had given birth to a baby boy, said to be the son of the king. It was reported that Anne had not informed the king or his council of her pregnancy and this was why the king himself had not announced it. The frequent visits between the king and Anne gave plausibility to the story, as well as the fact that Anne had recently been ill and kept to her bed, and therefore to discover the truth of the matter the king immediately sent envoys to Anne's estate at Hever.

The inquirers managed to trace the rumour back through only six people until they reached the source.
"We examined also, partly before dinner, and partly after, a new matter, being a report that the lady Anne of Cleves should be delivered of a fair boy; and whose should it be but the king's majesty's! which is a most abominable slander, and for this time necessary to be met withal. This matter was told to [Richard] Taverner, of the signet, more than a fortnight ago, by both his mother-in-law (Lambert's wife, the goldsmith) and by Taverner's own wife, who saith she heard it of Lilgrave's wife; and Lambert's wife heard it also of the old lady Carew. Taverner kept it, [concealed it], but they [the women] with others have made it common matter of talk. Taverner never revealed it till Sunday night, at which time he told it to Dr Cox, to be further declared if he thought good, who immediately disclosed it to me the lord privy-seal. We have committed Taverner to the custody of me the bishop of Winchester; likewise Lambert's wife (who seemeth to have been a dunce in it) to Mr the chancellor of the Augmentations." - Minutes of the Privy Council.

The members of Anne's household were subjected to strict interview by the council, and it was not until the end of December 1541 that the council were able to put an end to the matter.
The source of the rumour was found to be Frances Lilgrave, a widow, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London for her slanderous words. Richard Taverner was also imprisoned for the fact that he concealed her treason.
Frances Lilgrave was from an embroiderer family who were employed by the royal family; her husband having been an embroiderer to Anne Boleyn during her tenure as queen.
Richard Taverner (1505-75) was a translator of the Bible from Greek, having published 'Taverner's Bible' in 1539, and was under the patronage of Thomas Cromwell. He was not imprisoned in the Tower for long, and was soon returned to royal favour. His wife that was mentioned in the council minutes was his first wife Margaret Lambert (d.1563), whom he married in 1537 and had seven children by.

The circumstances surrounding Anne of Cleves at the time of this rumour only served to add plausibility to it. King Henry had two living wives, and his most recent bride Katherine Howard was under investigation for having been unfaithful to the king during their marriage. Historian Antonia Fraser mentions that her appearance also would have changed since her arrival in England, and especially as she enjoyed the English food and wine, and her weight gain may have only served to fuel the rumour mill.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Dacre marriages

Humphrey Dacre (1424-85) and his wife Mabel Parr (1441-1508) had nine children together;
+ Thomas Dacre (1467-1525) m. Elizabeth Greystoke (1471-1516)
+ Elizabeth Dacre (b.1464) m. Richard Huddleston
+ Hugh Dacre
+ Christopher Dacre (b.1470)
+ Philip Dacre m. Anne Grey
+ Ralph Dacre
+ Humphrey Dacre
+ Anne Dacre m. Thomas Strangeways (1491-1525)
+ Katherine Dacre (1484-1527) m1. George FitzHugh (d.1513) m2. Thomas Neville (1484-1542)

Humphrey Dacre died in 1485, leaving his widow to arrange advantageous marriages for their children. The Dacre family were at this time out of favour with the new king, Henry VII, due to their turn-coat behaviour during the Wars of the Roses in that they continued to change sides and therefore their loyalty could not be depended upon by the new Tudor king. Therefore it was important that the Dacre children married into families who had been loyal to the Tudor cause throughout the wars.

In 1488, Mabel's eldest son Thomas Dacre abducted the wealthy heiress Elizabeth Greystoke (1471-1516), a descendant of John of Gaunt with familial ties to the Woodville family, and married her. Elizabeth was the sole heir to her grandfather Ralph Greystoke, due to her father Robert Greystoke having predeceased his father in 1483, and inherited his vast estates in Northumberland when he died in 1487.
Thomas and Elizabeth had eight children together;
+ Mabel Dacre m. Henry Scrope
+ William Dacre m. Elizabeth Talbot
+ Anne Dacre m. Christopher Conyers
+ Mary Dacre m. Francis Talbot
+ Jane Dacre m. Lord Tailboys
+ Humphrey Dacre
+ Elizabeth Dacre m. Thomas Musgrave
+ Philippa Dacre

Mabel's daughter Elizabeth went down a similar route for her marriage. In 1494 Elizabeth had fallen in love with the sixteen year old Richard Huddleston of Millom (1481-1502), at this time she was about seventeen years his senior. Mabel kidnapped Richard and forced him to marry her daughter Elizabeth. As Richard was not of legal age when his father died, he had become a ward of the Crown, and therefore Mabel had committed a crime as his marriage was to be dependent upon the king's permission. Mabel and Elizabeth were arrested and imprisoned at Lancaster Castle. The prison conditions were harsh and it was there that Elizabeth died "overcome with melancholy and remorse", Elizabeth's brother Thomas claimed that she died due to the distress of her mother's imprisonment. Mabel was released after nine months imprisonment, on the condition that a fine be paid of 1000 marks. Richard Huddleston did not remarry, and he died in October 1503 at the age of just 27 years. There is a tomb in Millom church which commemorates Richard Huddleston and his wife Elizabeth Dacre.

Richard and Elizabeth Huddleston tomb, Millom Church

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The life and loves of Frances Vavasour

Frances Vavasour (1568-1606), was the daughter of Henry Vavasour and Margaret Knyvett (b.1537), and sister to Anne Vavasour (1562-1650) the mistress of Edward de Vere and Sir Henry Lee.
Frances came to the royal court in the late 1580's to serve Queen Elizabeth I as a maid of honour, and in November 1590 she was observed by Sir John Stanhope, the vice chamberlain, to have "flourisheth like the lily and the rose". Her elder sister Anne's romantic adventures may have served as a warning to Frances, however Frances was to find herself in her own romantic entanglements.

By 1591 Frances was the mistress of Sir Robert Dudley (1574-1649), the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley - the queen's favourite - and Douglas Sheffield, nee Howard (1542-1608). Frances and Robert became contracted to marry with the queen's consent, although the queen wished Robert to wait a few years until he was older to marry.
It can be understood why Frances had fallen for Robert Dudley, as he was probably very much like his father; he had been raised in his father's household and inherited his good looks and charm. Robert was educated at Oxford University, stood alongside his father during the Spanish Armada, and also received a large inheritance from his father in the shape of Kenilworth Castle; by sixteenth century standards he was an ideal husband.

No marriage to Robert Dudley took place, as later in 1591 Frances had married in secret to Sir Thomas Shirley (1564-1633), and Robert Dudley went on to marry Margaret Cavendish (d.1595). Thomas' father did not approve of the match with Frances, perhaps providing a reason for the secrecy of the marriage. Whilst Frances' marriage was still a secret, her husband Thomas publicly courted the widowed Frances Brooke, Lady Stourton (b.1561), behaving as if he were free to marry her.
Frances Brooke, was the sister to Elizabeth Brooke who married Sir Robert Cecil. Frances and Elizabeth were the daughters of Lord Cobham. The behaviour of Thomas Shirley had greatly offended the family of Frances Brooke, and by extension also Robert Cecil. Thomas wrote to Thomas Heneage in order to ask him to reconcile himself with the Cobham family, that he had caused so much offense to.

"I do hold myself much bounden unto your honour in that you will please to do your best to reconcile me unto Sir Robert Cecil and my Lady Cobham both which I have mightily wronged in the carriage of my marriage. For in very truth I, being moved with the worth of my Lady Sturton, and the great honour of her house, had a desire to make her possessor of all my love and thoughts, till love (whose quality I doubt not but your honour is acquainted withal) forced me to settle all my fancies and resolutions on another, whose love I now possess. Yet during the time of my affection unto her I was often wandering, sometimes being shaken with the slanders she was subject unto, some other time deeply continuing the inestimable worth of my Lady Sturton; all which things rightly weighted, I hope that Sir Robert Cecil and all those honourable ladies, who I have thus wronged will be pleased rather to blame love. Yet is there behind a greater offence which I will unfold unto your honour that when you know it you may the better excuse it; that is, that being married I continued going to my Lord Cobham, which I assure your honour I did for fear of offending my father with my double dealing, neither durst in outward shew to him seem to leave my first desires till I had found some good means to win to like the second. In which course though I did very ill yet no so badly as some do think, for I never spake unto that lady of marriage, neither indeed would her honourable father suffer me to do, being moved by some holy influence that I was not fit for such a motion. Now your honour perceiveth the depth of my case. I humbly beseech you to hold such a course as may win the whole noble family once again to think me honest and I will ever hold those direst courses and be so thankful unto your honour as you shall have no cause to be ashamed of that you shall do fore me." - Thomas Shirley to Sir Thomas Heneage, 6th September 1595.

In September 1591 Frances and Thomas' marriage was discovered, as a result the couple were banished from court and Thomas was imprisoned in Marshalsea prison for his deceitful behaviour. He was released in the spring of 1592, after sending a penitent letter to William Cecil on the 28th December 1591.
Frances and Thomas had seven children together;
+ Cheyney Shirley (d.1605)
+ Henry Shirley (1591-1627)
+ Thomas Shirley (1597-1664) m. Ann Blundell
+ Frances Shirley (1598-1639) m. John Mole
+ Elizabeth Shirley m. Arthur Daking
+ Catherine Shirley
+ Dorothy Shirley

Wiston House, owned by Thomas Shirley

Married life was not to be any less eventful for Frances and Thomas. Due to the dire financial situation of his father, Thomas sold his company to Thomas Vavasour, Frances' brother, and went into privateering hoping to improve the family fortunes. In 1600 he came under attack from his creditors, and one incident involved supporters of Sir Richard Weston breaking into Thomas' father's house in Blackfriars in London, and threatened both father and son, demanding payment. Early in 1602, Thomas pillaged two small hamlets in Portugal, each containing only a dozen houses; this event seems to be a typical example of his unsuccessful privateering career. In 1602 Thomas took two ships to the Levant to strike a blow against the Turks, however in January 1603 he was captured by Turks and held prisoner in Constantinople. He was not released until ransom was paid in December 1605, and he did not return to England until a year later, by which time his wife Frances had died.  In 1607 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for interfering in the actions of the Levant Company. Thomas remarried in December 1617 to Judith Taylor, nee Bennet, with whom he went on to have eleven children. In 1627, Frances and Thomas' son Henry Shirley, a playwright, was murdered in London. The high costs of Thomas' failed expeditions at sea, as well as the family debts he had inherited, meant that much of the Shirley inheritance had been sold or lost. The last property left was the Park on the Isle of Wight, which he permitted to keep due to his age and infirmity, and he died there.
The children of Thomas Shirley and his second wife Judith Taylor were;
+ John Shirley
+ Hugh Shirley
+ Thomas Shirley (d.1658)
+ Robert Shirley
+ Richard Shirley
+ Judith Shirley
+ Anne Shirley
+ Judith Shirley
+ Elizabeth Shirley
+ Bridget Shirley
+ Elizabeth Shirley

Robert Dudley, styled Earl of Warwick.jpg
Robert Dudley, c.1590's

In 1605 Robert Dudley tried to use his previous relationship with Frances to sort out his own marital problems. He claimed that he had in fact been married to Frances, and therefore both of his first two marriages - to Margaret Cavendish and Alice Leigh (1579-1669) - had not been legal as Frances had still been alive. His reason behind this was that he wished to get an annulment of his second marriage to Alice Leigh, in order to marry his cousin and lover Elizabeth Southwell (1586-1631). Elizabeth Southwell had arrived at court in 1599 to become a maid of honour to the queen, she was a great-granddaughter of Henry Carey (1525-96), and therefore related to Robert through his Howard mother. The claim of the previous marriage to Frances was not accepted, and so Robert Dudley and Elizabeth Southwell - disguised as a male page - left England on July 2nd 1605 and travelled first to France, and then on to Tuscany in Italy. They were married in Lyon in 1606 in the Catholic faith - this may also have been done as a means to nullify his married to Alice Leigh as it would not have been recognised by the Catholic church due to the fact it had ben a Protestant marriage - after being granted a papal dispensation due to the fact that they were close blood relatives, and went on to have thirteen children. After using his skills as a navigator and ship builder for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Robert went on to become a grand chamberlain at the Medici court in Florence. The couple never returned to England.

"The much put out because a married cavalier, Sir Robert Dudley, who they say is a natural son of the Earl of Leicester, has last night carried off a maid of honor of whom he was enamoured. Strict orders were promptly given out, but at present we have heard no news. This gentleman is about 35 years of age, of exquisite stature, with a fair beard, and noble appearance. The fact has created great scandal." - Ottaviano Lotti to Ferdinand I, Grand Duke of Tuscany

Robert had married his first wife Margaret Cavendish in 1591, which lasted until her death from the plague in 1595. The couple had no children together. Robert soon remarried to Alice Leigh on the 11th September 1596. Robert and Alice had seven daughters together, only five of which survived to adulthood;
+ Alice Dudley (1597-1621)
+ Douglas Dudley
+ Katherine Dudley (1598-1673) m. Richard Levenson
+ Frances Dudley m. Gilbert Kniveton
+ Anne Dudley m. Robert Holborne
After Robert left England and abandoned his wife and daughters, King James I ordered him to return and when he failed to do so, James confiscated his lands and declared him and outlaw for deserting his family.
Robert and Elizabeth had the following children together;
+ Maria Dudley (b.1609)
+ Cosimo Dudley (b.1610)
+ Anna Dudley (1611-29)
+ Carlo Dudley (1614-1686) m. Mary Magdalen of Picardy
+ Teresa Dudley (b.1623) m. Earl of Carpegna
+ Maria Christina Dudley (b.1628)
+ Enrico Dudley (b.1631)
+ Ambrogio Dudley
+ Ferdinando Dudley
+ Maria Magdalena Dudley
+ Antonio Dudley
+ Giovanni Dudley
+ dau Dudley m. Duke of Castillion del Lago

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The loves of Anne Vavasour

Anne Vavasour (1562-1650) became a gentlewoman of the bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth I in 1580, along with her sister Frances (1568-1606). After only a few months, Anne became one of the six maids of honour to the queen.

Anne Vavasour, c.1605

Soon after arriving at court, Anne became the mistress of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604). Edward de Vere had been married to Anne Cecil (d.1588), the daughter of William Cecil, on the 16th December 1571. However, the couple did not enjoy a happy marriage and the couple separated in 1576, although they did reconcile in January 1582 and remained together until her death in 1588.

"On Tuesday at night Anne Vavysor was brought to bed of a son in the maidens' chamber. The E. of Oxford is avowed to be the father, who hath withdrawn himself with the intent, as it is thought, to pass the seas. The ports are laid for him and therefore if he have any such determination it is not likely that he will escape. The gentlewoman the selfsame night she was delivered was conveyed out of the house and the next day committed to the Tower." Francis Walsingham to Henry Carey, 24th March 1581

On the 23rd March 1581, Anne gave birth to Edward de Vere's illegitimate son, named Edward Vere. It appears that Anne had hidden the pregnancy throughout the nine months and therefore it came as a shock when she gave birth in the 'maidens chambers' at Whitehall Palace. Anne and her baby were sent to the Tower the day after his birth. Edward was also imprisoned in the Tower of London by Queen Elizabeth after he was caught trying to leave the country to avoid punishment. Edward was released a few months later on the 8th of June, but was kept under house arrest for one year and banished from court for two years until June 1583. After the birth of their child it appears that the relationship ended and Edward took no responsibility for his son; he was raised solely by his mother Anne.

Edward de Vere, 1575

Edward and Anne's relatives, in particular her maternal uncle Thomas Knyvett (1545-1622), had a number of duels in the streets of London beginning in March 1582 due to the love affair, which led to the wounding of both men. The possible reasons behind this could include Edward's refusal to take any responsibility for his son. Also, three of Thomas and Edward's servants was killed when men loyal to both sides became involved in affrays. The feud continued until 1585 when Anne's brother Thomas Vavasour (1560-1620) challenged Edward to a duel, however this duel did not take place.

"If thy body had been as deformed as thy mind is dishonourable, my house had been yet
unspotted, and thyself remained with thy cowardice unknown. I speak this that I fear
thou art so much wedded to that shadow of thine that nothing can have force to awake thy
base and sleepy spirits. Is not the revenge already taken of thy vildness sufficient, but
wilt thou yet use unworthy instruments to provoke my unwitting mind? Or dost thou fear
thyself, and therefore has sent thy forlorn kindred, whom as thou hast left nothing to
inherit, so thou dost thrust them violently into thy shameful quarrels? If it be so (as I too
much doubt), then stay at home thyself, and send my abusers, but if there be yet left any
spark of honour in thee, or jot of regard of thy decayed reputation, use not thy birth for an
excuse, for I am a gentleman, but meet me thyself alone, and thy lackey to hold thy horse.
For the weapons, I leave them to thy choice, for that I challenge, and the place to be
appointed by us both at our meeting, which I think may conveniently be at Newington, or
else where thyself shalt send me word by this bearer, by whom I expect an answer." Thomas Vavasour to Edward de Vere, 19th January 1585

Before 1590 Anne was married to a sea captain named John Finch, alias Freeman. However, around the same time she became the mistress to another nobleman; Sir Henry Lee (1533-1611), his wife Anne Paget died in 1590. Anne Vavasour gave birth to Henry's illegitimate son Thomas Vavasour in 1589. Anne and Henry lived openly as a couple at his manor of Ditchley. It appears that Queen Elizabeth did not disapprove of this relationship of Anne's as she visited the couple at Ditchley in September 1592. Henry gave a pension to Anne's husband John Finch starting in 1605; he was to receive £20 a year. The couple received another royal visit in September 1608 when Queen Anne visited them at a lodge near Woodstock. Anne and Henry remained together until his death in 1611. In his Will, Henry left Anne £700 a year and properties, as well as instructions for their joint tomb burial in St Peter's Chapel in Quarrendon. The epitaph for Anne on the tomb read;

"Under this stone entombed lies a fair & worthy Dame
Daughter to Henry Vavasour, Anne Vavasour her name.
She living with Sir Henry Lee, for love long time did dwell
Death could not part them but here they rest within one cell"

However, the church disapproved of burying a couple together who were not married, and therefore the tomb was not shared by Anne. After his death, Anne became locked in legal battles with Henry's cousin and heir, another Henry Lee, over the properties that Henry had left her.

Sir Henry Lee

Despite still being married to her first husband, Anne married again before 1618 to John Richardson. Due to this second marriage, on the 8th August 1618 Henry Lee - the heir of her former partner - brought Anne before the High Commission and accused her of bigamy. The case continued until the 1st February 1622, when it was finally decided that Anne was to pay a fine of £2000. She was granted a dispensation from having to perform public penance.

Anne's eldest son Edward attended the University of Leyden at the age of fifteen, and then followed a military career under the command of his cousin Sir Francis de Vere. Edward was a captain in the army by 1600, and later on in 1623 he became an MP. During his childhood, Edward was raised in Henry Lee's household, as well as being accepted as a member of the de Vere family by his half-brother and cousins. It appears that Edward had an uneasy relationship with Henry Lee; Henry offered him money due to the fact that as an illegitimate son he inherited nothing from his father, but Edward refused and paid him back in goods worth the same value. Edward was a witness to Henry Lee's Will, but did not inherit anything. Edward Vere died in 1629.
Anne's younger son, Thomas Vavasour, became known as Thomas Freeman later in life. Thomas was an executor of his father Henry's Will.